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The Most (Un)Democratic Primary In Decades

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As the presidential primary season begins to heat up, Joe Biden’s numbers are a cause for concern for Democratic party strategists. In a late April NBC News poll, 70% of Americans and 51% of Democrats said Biden should not run again. While Biden’s age tends to be the voter doubt that gets highlighted in the media (he’s already the oldest-ever president), Biden’s record in office is a massive problem for him. 

Workers have been battered by rising prices and a crisis of affordable housing virtually everywhere. The COVID relief bill, Biden’s one significant accomplishment benefitting workers, is now completely expired. Young people have gotten no relief from student debt or help with higher education costs. Women and LGBTQ people are under attack by the right with no real response from the Democratic Party. The Biden administration’s promise to pass legislation reforming the police was abandoned. Pledges to pass a healthcare public option and pro-union legislation are all gone by the wayside. Climate change, and its catastrophic impacts on people’s lives, continues at a terrifying pace while Biden opens up more land for drilling in the Arctic. By any measure meaningful to ordinary working people, the Biden administration has been a failure.   

A Foregone Conclusion

Despite Biden’s policy failures and broken promises, his humiliation at the hand of coal baron Joe Manchin, his refusal to mount any real fightback against the right, and the cost of it all to working people and youth, the Democratic Party establishment has already chosen him as its 2024 candidate. With a Democratic primary schedule rearranged to avoid any suspense, with no primary debates planned and the absence of any truly serious contenders, the major Democratic donors and party bosses will arrive at the convention in Chicago next August determined to nominate Joe Biden to be their candidate. 

Bernie Sanders’ days as a presidential contender who popularized a left-wing, pro-worker program within the Democratic Party are over; Sanders endorsed Biden hours after Biden’s official announcement. He refused to break with the Democrats in both 2016 and in 2020 when he had mass support, a tragic setback for the development of a left political alternative in the US. Sanders and members of “The Squad” in Congress now pose next to no threat to the Democratic Party’s corporate, anti-worker agenda. 

The mass politicization around income inequality and the billionaire class that Bernie Sanders’ presidential runs had is a dynamic that will be completely absent from the 2024 Democratic Party coronation of Joe Biden. Broadly popular demands that Sanders championed, such as Medicare for All and free public college education, won’t be on the agenda during the primary season as they were in the previous two elections. The only candidates who have so far emerged to challenge Biden, spiritual guru Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., are in no way a continuation of Bernie’s left-wing challenge and, with their major weaknesses, are unlikely to develop any major following.  

Biden Vs. Trump – Again

The primary appeal of Biden, and the one which his campaign will focus on, is that he beat Donald Trump. Understandably, there are millions of voters who dread the possibility that Trump could return to the White House with his chaotic right populism and racism, sexism, xenophobia, and transphobia. The Biden administration, with its platitudes on democracy and national unity, tries to paint a picture of representing normalcy.

Beyond the rhetoric, however, the Biden administration’s legacy so far is marked not only by an abject failure to deliver for working people, but also the continuation of Trump’s brutal immigration policies on the southern border and a massive ramping up of geopolitical tensions and militarism. Both Trump and Biden represent the obscenely greedy and utterly corrupt system of capitalism that benefits only a minuscule fraction of humanity at the expense of the rest. 

That the vast majority of the population in the United States has gained nothing through Biden’s presidency is a factor in the growth of sections of the right wing, and makes it much less likely that Biden beats Trump in a second general election. Lesser evilism – the notion that we have to vote for the lesser of two evils – is exactly the logic that has gotten us to the very bad place that we’re in now, with worsening discrimination and oppression against women and LGBTQ people, no gains in the struggle against racist police violence, and an economy that punishes workers. 

With Biden presiding over a decline in the standard of living for millions struggling with rising prices while the Democrats do nothing to mitigate it, the door is open for the right to make gains using a divide-and-conquer approach. LGBTQ people and particularly trans people, as well as homeless people of color, are being targeted by the right all across the country. The door is wide open for Trump and other right-wing figures to criticize the $46 billion that the US has sent to Ukraine in military spending so far, as there are no “progressive” Democrats willing to challenge the Biden administration on this issue. 

Since the main pillars of the left in office, Bernie Sanders and the Squad, have fallen in line behind the Biden agenda, there isn’t any credible figure who can put forward a positive left program based on uniting all working people and rejecting discrimination. Millions voted for Biden to stop a Trump presidency, but without any left-wing force putting forward an alternative, the Biden presidency has been transformed into a builder of the right wing. 

From Sanders’ doomed campaigns in the Democratic primaries to the Squad voting to prevent rail workers from going on strike, attempting to reform the Democratic Party into a force for left-wing politics is hopeless. While the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest socialist organization in the US, have failed to develop into a serious political alternative of any scale, the sheer rot of the Democratic Party establishment compared to the leftward shift in big sections of workers and youth means that cracks are continually surfacing. 

Megan Hunt, a progressive state senator from Nebraska, led the fight against state bans on abortion and transgender-affirming healthcare. She drew the conclusion that “the political dysfunction is extreme and at the national level, the parties are ideologically bankrupt,” in explaining her recent departure from the Democratic Party. Hunt’s own lived experience in the Nebraska State House showed that the Democratic Party is worthless for waging a real fight against oppression.

No More Dead Ends

Politics are being falsely polarized around book bans and drag shows. The giant gulf that divides society, between the billionaires who control the economy and workers who do the work, is actively obscured by the ruling class and the two political parties that represent it. 

Working people need our own political party to consistently fight for pro-worker and anti-discrimination measures, and run candidates who are held accountable to a pro-working class program, not the Democratic Party establishment or its billionaire benefactors. Politicians prepared to fight against discrimination like Hunt, or Zooey Zephyr, the Montana state legislator who was formally censured for speaking against an anti-transgender healthcare ban, would be supported by a new left party, not hung out to dry by the Democratic establishment. 

The future holds the threat of another Trump presidency, but workers, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women, and youth are suffering the consequences of a Biden presidency in the present. In order to push the struggle for a new party to a higher level, working people have to reject the absurdly undemocratic primary process and reject voting for Biden at all. Instead, workers and youth should insist on political independence from the two parties of capitalism. A new political party of and for the working class is a necessary step to replace the catastrophic system of capitalism and replace it with socialism.    

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